Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has issued legal proceedings in the Federal Court in a test case seeking to overturn a decision made by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) to reject a funding application from the Beechworth Lawn Tennis Club (BLTC) as part of the scandal-plagued sports rorts affair.
Maurice Blackburn Principal Josh Bornstein said the application had been lodged with the Federal Court against the ASC seeking an order that its decision to reject BLTC's application for a community sports grant be overturned and requiring the ASC to consider the application again, this time lawfully.
"In this case, the Court will be asked to determine if the ASC acted unlawfully and breached its statutory duties in what has become known as the sports rorts affair," Mr Bornstein said.
"Under the ASC Act, the ASC is required to make decisions to award community sports grants independent from government and party political considerations.
"As we now all know however, the ASC abandoned its proper role and took direction from the Prime Minister's office and the Sports Minister to allocate grants in seats to help re-elect LNP politicians.
"While the corruption of the sports grant process has been highlighted in both the Parliament and the media, those involved have not been held to account. This case aims to ensure all concerned are made accountable.
"The application also seeks to challenge the decision to give a grant to the Wangaratta Clay Target Club – a club of which Senator McKenzie was a member.
"This Federal Court challenge is an important test case about the legality of the entire sports rorts affair. If the BLTC is successful in its application, then the benefit is likely to flow through to all other clubs that should have received grants on merit," he said.
In September 2018, the Indigo Shire Council, on behalf of the BLTC, applied for a grant of $500,000 under the Community Sports Infrastructure Grant Program for the purpose of building new tennis facilities and a clubhouse.
The grant was rejected, despite qualifying under the ASC criteria.
BLTC President Andy Carr said the Club had put significant time and effort into its application, only to have this thwarted for political purposes.
"We were very grateful to have the help of Indigo Shire in making this application and we put a lot of time into this – all up we spent close to six weeks on our application because we knew we should qualify," Mr Carr said.
"We are badly in need of new facilities and the membership numbers for our once thriving club have now also taken a hit given we don't have the facilities for people to play tennis.
"All we want is a fair process that assesses our application and all applications on merit – there is no question if a merit-based process had applied our Club would have qualified for funding," he said.